WishFi weighed its final options with a fortuneteller, by Samson Chen

Samson Chen and Yvan having dinner in Taipei, Taiwan

In this post, we uncover the last act at Wishfi, i.e. how a fortuneteller helped them make their final decisions, and we will reveal some of his main lessons learned. In part 1, we discussed his entrepreneurial journey, i.e. how Samson became an entrepreneur and what made it work.

1)   How did your story at Wishfi finish?

In Taiwan, startups often obtain large investments instead of being acquired. In our case, we obtained an investment from a holding company in order to have a close partnership with a multi-national company.

The story behind this investment is unique. At one point, I had to choose between 2 big investors, one in Europe and one in Asia. We didn’t know which one to choose or how to negotiate. We were stuck.

My partner who came from Yahoo knew one fortuneteller who seemed able to make good predictions. With the knowledge of your lunar birthday and time and by touching our business cards, she could calculate our fate. Once she was able to “read” that my time as a CTO was divided among too many tasks and that technical work only account for 30% of my time, which made me focus on my core duty for the best of Wishfi.

We then decided to attempt to solve our investor problem by visiting the fortuneteller: All of us including the board of directors! Being from Europe, Harri Okkonen didn’t know which time zone to use so he decided to withdraw because the stakes were so high.

We asked her which investor would be best. She pretty much told us 2 simple things: First, the Taiwanese investors would be hard to work with, and second, we had until June to make a decision. After some analysis, we finally chose the Taiwanese company because the European investor only wanted to invest for our European subsidiary, while the Taiwanese company wanted to have a large majority stake, simplifying our fundraising plan. We finalized a deal by June and the teller turned out to be right (ask me if you want more details)!

The rest is history. Partnering with the Taiwanese company (can’t mention the name) was an experience I’ll never forget.  Our vision of deploying our free WiFi worldwide finally had a chance to becoming a reality!

2)   Now tell us about your main lessons learned for our audience

  • If you’re in a small country, think globally from day one. This mindset will influence who you hire, what product you build and which investors you choose. This will also increase the availability of talent in all areas for your company. For example, in Taiwan, our talent pool is generally strong in engineering but weaker in sales and marketing.
  • Living abroad, i.e. in the US, has helped me creating the connections and experience I needed to tackle large markets outside of Taiwan. I have a friend who went to school in China to learn how business is run and make connections there. It made a big difference for him as well.
  • The best investors for your company might not be the ones in your local country. Stay open.
  • Patents might not be useful in the market you’re targeting (think of China). In our case, it brought value to the eyes of the investors and acquirers.
  • Working with people you trust is key. Transparency is also important.

At the end, starting up a company is much easier than you think, just start doing it and focus, in the first year, on understanding your market and developing your product!

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